Last night, Holly and I got the chance to go see an advance screening of the new Fantastic Four movie. We got to go thanks to a special screening hosted by the Alaska Airlines Signature Card, so I feel obliged to throw in a thank you to them for doing such a thing, and for thinking of our little community when they selected cities to screen the movie in.
I should also mention that we looked over the materials we were given, and while recording is super not okay (they say that just about every way they can; we just left the phones in the car!), they say nothing about talking about the experience afterwards. Indeed, I think they mean for us to.
So that means we wanted to get our thoughts out today, share them in advance of the movie to help you decide if this is one you want to go see. So this is a joint review, with thoughts from both of us!
It’s a movie we were on the fence about, and with the Geek Baby, were likely going to wait to rent. However, the chance to see it early and free meant it was time to find some baby-sitting! So it was our first outing without the Geek Baby. And what we got for that was a movie that was pretty good on the big screen, was pretty entertaining, but which also had some issues. We figure if you want to see it for the entertaining bits you don’t need our input, so we’re going to talk about a few of the issues we found with the movie to help you decide if you want to see the movie too!
Two Movies Enter: One Movie Leaves
If I were to describe one take-away from this movie, it’s that they had two competing things going on: two movies they were making, if you will. And while I don’t feel like I’m opposed to either movie, their combination ended up making something that did not live up to the potential of either.
So first off, the obvious movie. The Fantastic Four movie. I’ve discussed before the idea that they just keep telling origin stories and this movie was no exception. However, to avoid boring us with the origin story we already know, they went with a whole different one, largely based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four. So instead of space exploration, it’s teleportation and alternate dimension exploration.
Of course, to do that, you have to build a thing. And so, they proceed to do just that. After a lot of convincing of various parties, they proceed to have a science montage, and I turned to Holly and we both pretty much said “Science, Science, Science” like Joss Whedon does in the Avengers audio commentary.
However, they kept going with the building, with the science. A really large part of the movie is devoted to them doing scientific work, to building their machine, to working on perfecting it and working together to make it. So the second movie that this is, besides a Fantastic Four movie, is a science fiction movie.
But it’s one of those science-fiction-horror movies.
When things go wrong, and they get their powers, the movie emphasizes the body horror aspects of it all. I mean, Reed stretching is really pretty gross and awful. And Johnny is literally on fire. And of course Ben, encased in stone, is the constant tragedy and Eeyore of the team – he can’t turn his power “off.”
However, here’s where the body horror lost some of its sting, I think: it wasn’t a surprise. Reason being, it’s the Fantastic Four. We all know what they end up as. It’s not like in Alien or Prometheus. In fact, I think Prometheus is a good comparison movie: a team sets out for exploration, cool alien world, things go horribly wrong, body horror, fight and flight through the home base, epic final confrontation…
So there you have it. It’s one-part first Fantastic Four movie complete with origin story, and one part science-fiction-exploration-horror movie. There are a couple of reasons this turns out awkwardly, and I’ll let Holly go into those! More spoilers ahead.
Building Toward a Sequel
Part of the reason that the movie turns out awkwardly is that at some point someone decided that they needed to build towards a sequel, but it feels like they decided that at the last minute. One of the ways that this plays out is that the direction that the story is taking seems to be going one way and then that entire story line just gets killed off and suddenly we are dealing with a completely different fight. This might not be so bad if it did not feel so tacked on at the end, which means it is also rushed.
Part of what happens is that they build up the Government Agency as bad guys who only care about gaining a weapon. Basically they wanted the work that the Fantastic Four had done with Doom to access the alternate universe. When they came back changed they wanted to use them for their own purposes. The Government is very much the nefarious guys who are doing bad things and will need the Fantastic Four to save them. Yet, this is not the direction that they decided to take the story.
Instead they decided that because this is a Fantastic Four movie that Doom had to be the bad guy. The problem with this is that Doom actually disappeared about half way through the movie. So instead of building him up as a villain he just suddenly comes back into the story. The transition between bad guys happens so fast that the audience hardly has time to process it. Then the next thing you know it is over and the Fantastic Four have become official.
Personally I think it would have been better off keeping the Government as the bad guys. They were building the story towards that direction anyway and it could have been great to have the Fantastic Four having to get together to stop whatever the Government plot was and to get themselves out from under their thumb. Then at the end you could tease Doom as a villain for a next movie, if there is one. There are ways to do a sequel, but the problem is that if you force too much it can be problematic.
I think my biggest disappointment is that it really felt as though this movie could have been good. I actually really enjoyed the actors and the general story being told, but then they switched the story suddenly and it did not end as good as it began. In the end the movie ended up falling flat because it tried to incorporate too many things.